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The Effects of Pediatric Critical Illness on Absenteeism

Children who survive critical illness and their parents commonly experience physical, emotional, and cognitive conditions as a result of the critical illness. These effects can also include prolonged absences from school and/or work. What has not been fully understood is the rate and duration of school absences among these children and work absences among their caregivers.

January 27, 2022
Martha A. Q. Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN Martha A. Q. Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN
Martha A. Q. Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN

A secondary analysis of a randomized trial of pediatric patients hospitalized for acute respiratory failure has shed important light on the subject. The study found that nearly 70% of pediatric patients missed an average of two five-day school weeks post hospital discharge and half of their primary caregivers missed an average of eight workdays post hospital discharge. The findings suggest a risk for negative downstream educational, financial, and health outcomes for patients and added stress and financial risk for their parents.

“This study suggests that post-PICU school absenteeism is an important target for future interventions including understanding the barriers to school participation, development of interventions to mitigate absenteeism, and to help children catch up on missed school,” says Martha A.Q. Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) and the senior researcher of the study. “In addition, given the magnitude of missed work found in our study and the hardships described by parents in prior studies, there is a great need for programs and policies to support families during and after pediatric hospitalization.”

The results of the study have been published in the JAMA Network. The article “School and Work Absences After Critical Care Hospitalization for Pediatric Acute Respiratory Failure: A Secondary Analysis of a Cluster Randomized Trial” is available online.

Coauthors of the article include Erin F. Carlton, MD, MSc, and Ryan P. Barbaro, MD, MSc, both of the University of Michigan; John P. Donnelly, PhD, of the University of Michigan Medical School; Hallie C. Prescott, MD, MSc, of the Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research; Lisa A. Asaro, MS, of Boston Children’s Hospital. And R. Scott Watson, MD, MPH, of the University of Washington, Seattle.

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